Saturday, July 26, 2014


This year's Blue Ridge Parkway ride was an exceptional one filled with happiness, joy and an appreciation for a fine friend who accompanied me and made the entire time an unforgettable experience.  The unexpected highlight of the trip was meeting a patriotic lady named Rhonda Winfield while Tom and I drifted through Waynesboro, Virginia looking for gas and food.  We couldn't find any restaurants or gas stations near the Blue Ridge Parkway and were in the process of leaving town and heading to the next burg when I looked to my left while at a light and saw a sign that said "Jake's Bar & Grill hanging on a colorful building just down the street.
This looked perfect.  We parked, walked inside and noticed immediately that the place had charm.  Then I saw something that made me think.  It seemed out of place and I knew I would be compelled to ask about it.
Tom and I walked in and took a seat.  Our illustrious president was making a military awards speech on the TV that hung above the bar.

Rhonda Winfield

For some reason I locked in on what our nations leader was saying while Tom ordered food and a couple beers.  I reacted to Obama's speech as I normally do when he speaks which is to assume that everything I was hearing was a lie.  As normally is the case, I became repulsed by this miscreant and became inwardly enraged which usually is followed by some audible comment which was the case today.  He was speaking to and about military award winners and it all sounded like a political speech and I said so.  I commented that our president never even made a phone call to Chris Kyle, the Navy Seal sniper who eliminated over a hundred Taliban barbarians for our country, keeping our Marines just a little bit safer.  Not even a phone call to his wife after Chris was murdered.

 Then the lady behind the bar told me that I wasn't the only one who had a patriotic heart.   Rhonda Winfield, owner of the establishment walked up to me and said that her son, Jason, was killed in combat on January 31, 2005 while serving on foreign soil.

 I remember thinking of the sacrifice this beautiful lady made and yet she can still smile.  She still has her son.  He lives on in her heart where he now is protected by his mother, a true patriot who will not allow him to ever leave her again.   I tried to smile with her but found that my eyes would not cooperate.  I think there was garlic somewhere around close by.
 She pointed to a picture behind her against the wall and said it was a picture of her son.  That picture is below:
 No, the rider can't be identified.  Only Rhonda knows who it is.  Only she can see the handsome face of the 19 year old rider.  The picture of the dark horse and rider are personal to her and are reflective of the real spirit of her son who resides in her heart.  She has given of herself and her son has willingly offered himself to the urn of freedom that contains the ashes of this countries patriots since its inception so that  our America can remain strong.  I'll not say anymore about this.  The issue is Rhonda's, and I guess I am issue guilty through association, but proudly so.   Rhonda has written a book about the experience of losing her son and she was gracious enough to give me a copy.  I have only read ten pages so far because my heart puts pressure on something behind my eyes that makes them water.  The book describes the insanity caused by the death of her son and her journey back to reality.  It is not my place to comment further.  Please buy her book.  Please do so and you will have some idea of the agony felt in a mother's heart when she has learned that her son has become a fallen hero.  The name of the book is "When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home."   Her name is Rhonda Winfield.  Caisson Press/June 2006.
It is so clear, yet, totally unclear in the same instant.  Such is life I guess.
I not only want to thank Tom for riding with me the entire time and tolerating my quirks and at times my ability to upset anyone and everyone in close proximity to me but, I want to thank an old, old best friend Craig.  Craig couldn't make this ride but was gracious enough to gather some friends from the past for a get together one evening up in Pennsylvania at his house.  Good friends - good food and a toast to the future.  What a way to end a ride!  I was to stay at Craig's house for a couple more days but, as usual, had an uncontrollable urge to get going.  I was two days at Tom's house lounging around and now here at Craig's lounging around and I was, in short, partied out.  When that happens there is nothing that can tie me down.  I saddled up and left that same night.  I know Craig must be really upset but, I can't help myself when I get in those moods.  The more effort that is expended to make me stay - the more I want to get away.  And that's how It went.  I drove non-stop all the way back home in Tennessee.  That in itself is a story that I won't go into here.

 Craig's beautiful daughters are below:  Peanut and Cat.

 These shots are taken at Freeborne's Motorcycle Hotel located in Laurel Springs, North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 Harley riders are sort of, well, different!

 Above is Tom's BMW and below is my little workhorse Kawasaki:
Below:  Tom on his BMW
 I used to buy souvenirs here at this little store on trips taken to the Blue Ridge in ages past.  It, like so many other favorite ancient places is now closed.  A shame.
Below is the infamous Tuggles Gap Hotel where a friend and I ran from the room in terror as Pumpkin Head tried to kick down the door and eat both of us. We ejected ourselves so quickly that late summer night that I left my shoes under the bed and sped off down the twisty Blue Ridge Parkway road.  I did return, however, to reclaim my shoes but did not put them on until riding several miles down the road away from the monster that surely lurked in the tall grass and behind the rocks near the hotel.

 Below is the famous room where the Pumpkin Head attack took place.  Oddly enough, the locks were on the outside of the windows.  That should have told us there was something up.  Anyway, that's the story.  

Above:  Tom enjoying lunch.
 The colorful rolled up quilt on the wall above is a very old quilt.  It will not be unrolled ever again due to its frailness.  However, I was able to photograph the names of the two ladies who made it.  

And, as you all know, I do like wild flowers.

Tom's wife, Jill was on a trip with her parents and was not home to greet us.  I enjoyed reading from my Kindle while at Tom's and I wanted to photograph some of the scenery from their lovely home.  Sorry I missed you Jill.  Thanks for allowing me to read in the splendor of your flowers.
 In Tom's barn

 I expected to see the Pope appear at any minute.
 Note Rhonda's book on the arm of the bench.

 Strange flower stems

 Gotta be a dog in here somewhere.
Hope you enjoyed some of this.  Its a large post.  Special thanks to Craig, Deborah, Tom, Jill and most of all to a new close and important friend, Rhonda Winfield.  God Bless you Rhonda.